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Exclusive: Buyers trust franchised car dealers more than any other – and online disruptors the least

  • Franchised dealers are by far and away the most trusted by consumers
  • Online disruptors languish at the bottom of the trust pile, according to results
  • Exclusive poll by What Car? quizzed 5,000 car buyers for Car Dealer Magazine

Time 7:34 am, December 15, 2021

Franchised car dealers are the most trusted by car buyers according to an exclusive new survey – while online used car sellers are being treated with extreme caution.

What Car? research conducted for Car Dealer Magazine polled 5,000 consumers on their trust levels when it comes to the motor trade.

Some 63 per cent of respondents said they thought franchised car dealers were the most trustworthy, with just five per cent saying they trusted online used car dealers the most.


Worryingly, more than half (52 per cent) of respondents said that previous interactions with car dealers had actually made them less likely to trust the motor trade.

Independent car dealers were the second most trusted outlet with 22 per cent and car supermarkets third (8 per cent).

The main concerns from customers surveyed were that car dealers were ‘too focused on sales rather than helping’, and they had worries over part exchange prices, not getting the best price or being told the truth about a car’s condition.

Jim Holder, editorial director of What Car?, said that the results prove online used car disruptors, like Cazoo and Cinch, have some work to do to win over customers’ trust.


The survey results show, he says, that traditional car dealerships that have both a physical showroom and a great online experience are actually the best placed.

He said: ‘The difficulty building trust without physical premises is laid bare – understandably, customers spending thousands of pounds want to know that there is somewhere they can inspect the car and where they can physically turn if there is an issue that needs sorting. 

‘It endorses why some of the highest-profile “online” disruptors have ended up investing in physical locations and why existing retailers with premises, sometimes disparagingly referred to as “legacy” retailers by online start-ups, are potentially best placed to capitalise in any shift to online sales too, as they already have physical locations and trusted brand names.’

The main concerns customers had when visiting dealerships were:


  • They are too sales focused rather than helping – 22.1%
  • They won’t give a fair part exchange price – 19%
  • They won’t give me the best price – 18.9%
  • They won’t tell me the truth on a vehicle’s condition – 16.5%
  • They will try to hide mechanical faults – 14.8%
  • They will modify a vehicle’s mileage – 4.8%
  • I don’t have concerns – 2.9%
  • Other – 0.9%

Holder added: ‘While it’s clear that around half of car buyers still enter into the process with low expectations of how they will be treated, the survey does provide a ringing endorsement of the trust that franchised and established independent retailers have over other rivals. 

‘To my mind that result also highlights the ground covered by the best retailers today over recent years – the levels of service and training are, in the best cases, exceptional, and that is reflected in these results.’

Swansway Garages director Peter Smyth said the results were a ‘ringing endorsement’ for franchised dealers.

‘This survey just proves what we knew all along – that customers like, and want, to visit franchised showrooms,’ he told Car Dealer.

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‘It emphasises that an omni-channel approach to retailing, with a good online and offline presence, is preferred by customers and trusted.

‘Comments made by some online only retailers about “sharp elbowed salesman” are just proven to be unfounded here as it’s actually these online-only car dealers that are struggling to win customer trust.

‘Cazoo went out and bought a physical presence and Cinch owners have done that with Marshalls – and that really says a lot.’

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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